I was loaned A Heart that Works by Rob Delaney shortly after having read about it on a recent “best of” list. Amazon: “In 2016, Rob Delaney’s one-year-old son, Henry, was diagnosed with a brain tumor. The family had moved from Los Angeles to London with their two young boys when Rob’s wife was pregnant with Henry, their third. The move was an adventure and a challenge that would bind them even more tightly together as they navigated the novelty of London, the culture clashes, and the funhouse experience of Rob’s fame—thanks to his role as co-creator and co-star of the hit series Catastrophe. Henry’s illness was a cataclysm that changed everything about their lives. Amid the hospital routine, surgeries, and brutal treatments, they found a newfound community of nurses, aides, caregivers, and fellow parents contending with the unthinkable. Two years later, Henry died, and his family watched their world fall away to reveal the things that matter most. A Heart That Works is Delaney’s intimate, unflinching, and fiercely funny exploration of what happened – from the harrowing illness to the vivid, bodily impact of grief and the blind, furious rage that followed, through to the forceful, unstoppable love that remains. In the madness of his grief, Delaney grapples with the fragile miracle of life, the mysteries of death, and the question of purpose for those left behind. Delaney’s memoir—profound, painful, full of emotion, and bracingly honest—offers solace to those who have faced devastation and shows us how grace may appear even in the darkest times.” If you are looking for a good cry, read this book. It is heartbreaking. I imagine it would be a good choice for anyone who has had a similar traumatic experience, but it was really difficult to read. However, there is no way you could consider it less than amazing for someone to write of this impossibly tragic life event.
Katherine Center books are fluff at best and The Bodyguard was no exception. Pure candy, this one. Amazon: “She’s got his back. Hannah Brooks looks more like a kindergarten teacher than somebody who could kill you with a wine bottle opener. Or a ballpoint pen. Or a dinner napkin. But the truth is, she’s an Executive Protection Agent (aka “bodyguard”), and she just got hired to protect superstar actor Jack Stapleton from his middle-aged, corgi-breeding stalker. He’s got her heart. Jack Stapleton’s a household name—captured by paparazzi on beaches the world over, famous for, among other things, rising out of the waves in all manner of clingy board shorts and glistening like a Roman deity. But a few years back, in the wake of a family tragedy, he dropped from the public eye and went off the grid. They’ve got a secret. When Jack’s mom gets sick, he comes home to the family’s Texas ranch to help out. Only one catch: He doesn’t want his family to know about his stalker. Or the bodyguard thing. And so Hannah—against her will and her better judgment—finds herself pretending to be Jack’s girlfriend as a cover. Even though her ex, like a jerk, says no one will believe it. What could possibly go wrong??? Hannah hardly believes it, herself. But the more time she spends with Jack, the more real it all starts to seem. And there lies the heartbreak. Because it’s easy for Hannah to protect Jack. But protecting her own, long-neglected heart? That’s the hardest thing she’s ever done.” Junk? Yes. Enjoyable? Also yes.
I have no idea how Reckless Girls by Rachel Hawkins ended up on my TBR list, but when I saw it on the shelf at the library, I grabbed it. And, it was a good read. Suspenseful and thrilling, and leaving you on the edge of your seat, while not being overly long, it was a good choice. “ONE ISLAND Beautiful, wild, and strange—Meroe Island is a desolate spot in the middle of the Pacific Ocean with a mysterious history of shipwrecks, cannibalism, and even rumors of murder. It’s the perfect destination for the most adventurous traveler to escape everything… except the truth. SIX VISITORS Six stunning twentysomethings are about to embark on a blissful, free-spirited journey—one filled with sun-drenched days and intoxicating nights. But as it becomes clear that the group is even more cut off from civilization than they initially thought, it starts to feel like the island itself is closing in, sending them on a dangerous spiral of discovery. COUNTLESS SECRETS When one person goes missing and another turns up dead, the remaining friends wonder what dark currents lie beneath this impenetrable paradise—and who else will be swept under its secluded chaos. With its island gothic sensibility, sexy suspense, and spine-tingling reimagining of an Agatha Christie classic, Reckless Girls will wreck you.” (Amazon) I enjoyed this read – it would be perfect for the beach.
The House Across the Lake had a good premise and a good start, but it devolved into having a fantasy conclusion which was quite disappointing. Amazon: “Casey Fletcher, a recently widowed actress trying to escape a streak of bad press, has retreated to the peace and quiet of her family’s lake house in Vermont. Armed with a pair of binoculars and several bottles of bourbon, she passes the time watching Tom and Katherine Royce, the glamorous couple living in the house across the lake. They make for good viewing—a tech innovator, Tom is powerful; and a former model, Katherine is gorgeous. One day on the lake, Casey saves Katherine from drowning, and the two strike up a budding friendship. But the more they get to know each other—and the longer Casey watches—it becomes clear that Katherine and Tom’s marriage isn’t as perfect as it appears. When Katherine suddenly vanishes, Casey immediately suspects Tom of foul play. What she doesn’t realize is that there’s more to the story than meets the eye—and that shocking secrets can lurk beneath the most placid of surfaces.” I wish this had a different solution because it was a solid thriller before that and I would have enjoyed it much more.
So, everyone knows that I don’t like YA. I read it because I am a Literature Circle mentor at school, but otherwise, no thank you. However, two different readers who I respect suggested this was a must-read, so I grudgingly picked up We Deserve Monuments by Jas Hammonds. Amazon: “Seventeen-year-old Avery Anderson is convinced her senior year is ruined when she’s uprooted from her life in DC and forced into the hostile home of her terminally ill grandmother, Mama Letty. The tension between Avery’s mom and Mama Letty makes for a frosty arrival and unearths past drama they refuse to talk about. Every time Avery tries to look deeper, she’s turned away, leaving her desperate to learn the secrets that split her family in two. While tempers flare in her avoidant family, Avery finds friendship in unexpected places: in Simone Cole, her captivating next-door neighbor, and Jade Oliver, daughter of the town’s most prominent family—whose mother’s murder remains unsolved. As the three girls grow closer—Avery and Simone’s friendship blossoming into romance—the sharp-edged opinions of their small southern town begin to hint at something insidious underneath. The racist history of Bardell, Georgia is rooted in Avery’s family in ways she can’t even imagine. With Mama Letty’s health dwindling every day, Avery must decide if digging for the truth is worth toppling the delicate relationships she’s built in Bardell—or if some things are better left buried.” And, I cried. It was a great read and, as reluctant as I am to do it, and as filled with every teenage angst theme it could be, it was a wonderful read and I give it five stars.
I enjoyed Gabrielle Zevin’s book The Storied Life of AJ Fikry. But, like Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, I didn’t LOVE it. I waffled between 4 and 4.5 stars for this one and landed at 4 only beacause, if it hadn’t been read in one sitting, I don’t think I would have liked it as much. It is not a read-in-one-sitting book, but it’s winter break, and I made that my morning work today. “On a bitter-cold day, in the December of his junior year at Harvard, Sam Masur exits a subway car and sees, amid the hordes of people waiting on the platform, Sadie Green. He calls her name. For a moment, she pretends she hasn’t heard him, but then, she turns, and a game begins: a legendary collaboration that will launch them to stardom. These friends, intimates since childhood, borrow money, beg favors, and, before even graduating college, they have created their first blockbuster, Ichigo. Overnight, the world is theirs. Not even twenty-five years old, Sam and Sadie are brilliant, successful, and rich, but these qualities won’t protect them from their own creative ambitions or the betrayals of their hearts. Spanning thirty years, from Cambridge, Massachusetts, to Venice Beach, California, and lands in between and far beyond, Gabrielle Zevin’s Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow is a dazzling and intricately imagined novel that examines the multifarious nature of identity, disability, failure, the redemptive possibilities in play, and above all, our need to connect: to be loved and to love. Yes, it is a love story, but it is not one you have read before.” (Amazon) While I really enjoyed the story, something about the characters wasn’t lovable to me.
Now is Not the Time to Panic by Kevin Wilson was on the shelf next to another book I was picking up from the library, so I grabbed it. I had read Nothing to See Here and not loved it, but I thought I should give Wilson another try. I’m glad I did. Now is Not the Time to Panic was a quick and engaging read. Amazon: “Sixteen-year-old Frankie Budge—aspiring writer, indifferent student, offbeat loner—is determined to make it through yet another summer in Coalfield, Tennessee, when she meets Zeke, a talented artist who has just moved into his grandmother’s house and who is as awkward as Frankie is. Romantic and creative sparks begin to fly, and when the two jointly make an unsigned poster, shot through with an enigmatic phrase, it becomes unforgettable to anyone who sees it. The edge is a shantytown filled with gold seekers. We are fugitives, and the law is skinny with hunger for us. When the posters begin appearing everywhere, people wonder who is behind them and start to panic. Satanists? Kidnappers? The rumors won’t stop, and soon the mystery has dangerous repercussions that spread far beyond the town. Twenty years later, Frances Eleanor Budge gets a call that threatens to upend her carefully built life: a journalist named Mazzy Brower is writing a story about the Coalfield Panic of 1996. Might Frances know something about that?” Was it a favorite this year, no, but it was a good read nonetheless.
The Woman in the Library by Sulari Gentill was on my TBR list for a while and the library had it. It was a quick and creative read about writing including a mystery. It was engaging, but only OK for me. “The tranquility is shattered by a woman’s terrified scream. Security guards take charge immediately, instructing everyone inside to stay put until the threat is identified and contained. While they wait for the all-clear, four strangers, who’d happened to sit at the same table, pass the time in conversation and friendships are struck. Each has his or her own reasons for being in the reading room that morning—it just happens that one is a murderer. Sulari Gentill delivers a sharply thrilling read with The Woman in the Library, an unexpectedly twisty literary adventure that examines the complicated nature of friendship and shows us that words can be the most treacherous weapons of all.” (Amazon) I think others might like this one more than I did. I can’t put my finger on it, but something about the characters and the tone didn’t make it a complete win for me.
Wrong Place Wrong Time by Gillian McAllister has been on my list for ages. And, wow. It was such a good read. Thriller, yes, but surprises at all turns. A mind-bender for sure. “Late October. After midnight. You’re waiting up for your eighteen-year-old son. He’s past curfew. As you watch from the window, he emerges, and you realize he isn’t alone: he’s walking toward a man, and he’s armed. You can’t believe it when you see him do it: your funny, happy teenage son, he kills a stranger, right there on the street outside your house. You don’t know who. You don’t know why. You only know your son is now in custody, his future shattered. That night you fall asleep in despair. All is lost. Until you wake . . . and it is yesterday. And then you wake again . . . and it is the day before yesterday. Every morning you wake up a day earlier, another day before the murder. With another chance to stop it. Somewhere in the past lies an answer. The trigger for this crime—and you don’t have a choice but to find it . . .” (Amazon) Is this the most amazing book I have read? Certainly not. But, it was a really enjoyable read and one I would grab if you have a chance.